London: Babies born by Caesarean section may be at greater risk of becoming obese later in life than those delivered naturally, according to experts.
A report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says a possible lack of exposure to beneficial bacteria in the mother`s birth canal may explain the phenomenon.
Infants born surgically are not exposed to beneficial bacteria in the birth canal and may take longer to accumulate "good bugs" that help in metabolism. Obese adults tend to have fewer friendly bacteria in their digestive tract than people with normal weight, says the Daily Mail.
In the study, Brazilian researchers looked at obesity rates in 2,000 people aged 23 to 25.
They found that 15 percent of those delivered by Caesarean section were obese compared to 10 percent of those born naturally.
The study also analysed income and education levels, because women with more qualifications had a higher caesarean rate.
Helena Goldani, whose team carried out the study at the Universidade Federal de Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, said the findings did not definitely prove a link between surgical deliveries and weight problems. But she explained the theory of non-exposure of infants born surgically to beneficial bacteria in the birth canal.
Ian Campbell, medical director of Weight Concern, however, said the study "raises more questions than it answers".
"Women who have a caesarean are less likely to breastfeed, which if done helps prevent obesity in children by establishing a healthier weight in childhood."
Around 23 percent of all births in Britain are by Caesarean section. The World Health Organisation recommends the figure should be around 15 percent.
Brazil, where the study was done, has around 44 percent of babies delivered by Caesarean section.